Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Stories to Accompany John Smid's Testimony: HuffPo Celebrates National Coming Out Day

Perhaps because yesterday was National Coming Out Day, Huffington Post carried a number of good articles that connect to themes developed by John Smid in his Grace Rivers statement about which I've just blogged.  In a piece called "I Didn't Ask, He Didn't Tell," Mara Shapshay recounts her painful experience of marrying a closeted gay man.  She writes with redeeming wry humor that doesn't entirely mask her justifiable hurt.

This was a painful experience that led her to discover that boatloads of other women have taken the same same boat, not knowing where their ticket was taking them when they bought it:

I found research done by University of Chicago sociologist Edward Laumann, Ph.D. He estimated that between 1.5 million and 2.9 million American women who have ever been married had a husband who had had sex with another man.

And on HuffPo's new Gay Voices page, Hylan Elias Kornfeld talks about how difficult the experience of coming out remains even for young folks in ostensibly "tolerant" and "liberal" families, whose tolerance and liberalism come under serious stress when a member of their immediate family (e.g., a father, mother, son, or daughter) announces she's lesbian or he's gay.  Kornfeld describes an experience that could well be the experience of all those closeted gay men who end up doing what Mara Shapshay's husband decided to do to when he married a straight woman: 

It saddens me to remember that despite the fact that I knew my parents would love me no matter what, I could never bring myself to talk to them about my feelings toward other boys. I tried very hard for many years to suppress those feelings while I focused on the feelings that I so wished would be there, that were "supposed" to be there. It was feasible for a while, and then it began to hurt, a hurt so deep, sharp and constant that it began to rule my waking hours. I would spend hours convincing myself that being gay was just a phase, or that I wasn't really feeling these feelings. Apparently, I am a very good actor, because no one ever suspected anything from me, or at the very least never confronted me.

And, finally, Paul V. explains why he chose to set up his touching and often hilarious blog site Born This Way, which invites gay and lesbian folks to send in childhood photos of themselves.  Photos that make you wonder, as you leaf through them, how anyone in her right mind could deny that people are, well, born this way . . . .

I have some of those photos of my brothers and me as children, which I'd submit to Paul V. if I only knew how to lay my hands on them.  And they've become even more poignantly meaningful to me, as have Smid's and Shapshay's discussions, in recent months due to a surprising situation that has developed in my own family out of the blue--and which convinces me all over again of the rightness of Kornfeld's observation that "tolerant" and "liberal" families often prove to be something less than that, when the gay arrow strikes a bit too close to their own tightly constructed "normal" nuclear family circles.

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